[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 12.]
Last week on The Flash it was Cisco's turn to be a hero, taking part in some extra vibe-training and then suiting up to duel rival meta, Gypsy. In the end he was victorious, but there were certainly hiccups along the way -- the biggest being the total lack of faith Barry had in him.
On tonight's episode, 'Untouchable' -- written by Brooke Roberts and Judalina Neira, directed by Rob Hardy -- Barry begins training another inexperienced hero for a monumental task and he'll need to be a lot more earnest with his encouragement. After coming to terms with the fact that he's never going to be fast enough to save Iris in those precious moments before Savitar stabs her, Barry turns to Wally, recognizing that Wally has the potential to be the faster speedster. However, their hopes of saving Iris from Savitar might be all for naught because when a new meta with the ability to make people decompose at an accelerated rate sets his sights on Joe, it's Iris who ends up taking the hit! Now Team Flash needs to save Iris in the here and now or won't matter if Wally becomes fast enough to save her in the future.
Inspiring & Empowering
As much as season 3 has been about Barry and the ever-changing timeline, with Wally gaining powers and becoming Kid Flash, the season has also been about Barry slowly growing into a mentor. And he's had a lot of mentors himself over the seasons from which to learn. Not all of them good, but each had important lessons to pass on and were invaluable in Barry's education as a speedster and hero. Now Barry needs to be that for Wally and it's proving harder than he thought.
Mentoring is much more than just passing on knowledge, though Barry certainly has a lot of techniques to pass along to Wally, like phasing and that spinning arm move he does. But when Wally isn't fast enough to save Iris from Clive Yorkin's decomposing touch -- a moment clearly meant to reflect the moment in the future they're training for -- it's an eye-opener for Barry, letting him realize he's been going about this all wrong. He doesn't just need to teach Wally -- Barry needs to inspire Wally, he needs to empower Wally, just as Wells, Harry, Hunter, Jay, and even Eobard Thawne did for him.
And while we had a little tease of this episode's big scene during their opening race, phasing through a building can't hold a candle to phasing an entire train moving at high speed. Call it Barry's Yoda and the X-Wing moment because it's an incredible feat to pull off -- and it works perfectly, saving Joe and all the passengers while also inspiring Wally with a taste of the full power a speedster can wield. Witnessing that is enough to instill confidence in his own abilities, and Wally easily dispatches with Yorkin. It's triumphant and for more reasons than stopping the bad guy and saving Iris. For the future's sake, this hopefully won't be the last time Barry is so inspirational.
Facing Their Fears Together
Alongside Barry training Wally, a subplot in 'Untouchable' deals with both Caitlin and Julian's fear and guilt over the bad things they've done as their alter-egos, Killer Frost and Alchemy. Unsurprisingly, the two can strongly relate, what with Caitlin's powers manifesting alongside a dual personality that's cold and uncaring and Julian having previously been mind-controlled by Savitar. Both understand what it's like to no longer be yourself and to do things you'll regret later. Living with that guilt has shaped them, and they're each a little broken and sad because of it.
These shared experiences have clearly been drawing these two characters together, and in this episode, it proves crucial that they've come to understand one another so fully. After Iris is attacked, their only hope of saving her is to slow the progression of the decomposing infection by freezing her arm, needing Caitlin to whip off that cool snowflake necklace and use her powers. This rattles Caitlin and at one point she loses control and Killer Frost is there (in what is some sublime acting from Danielle Panabaker as she switches personalities, well done). However, with Julian there and him immediately recognizing what's happening, he helps Caitlin face her fear and regain control, effectively allowing them to stall the disease and save Iris' life.
And sure, The Flash airs on The CW so it's not shocking at all that their bond is taking a romantic angle, but to be fair, this instance feels like it's earned it more than most. Though maybe Julian should worry, Caitlin's past boyfriends haven't fared so well. One of the future predictions is a return of Killer Frost, after all, and what makes better motivation for an evil turn than losing a loved one?
"Completely Real With Each Other"
It's no secret The Flash draws a lot of its drama from characters keeping important information from one another. It's their go-to source of tension, and thankfully, it was rightly called out in this episode. For reasons that we'll just have to chalk up to the script said so, Iris decides to come clean to her father about what Barry saw in the future and Joe is outraged. And again, rightly so, because if this season has been proof of anything it's that keeping secrets from each other only ever turns out badly for Team Flash.
Still, a policy of total honesty is desperately needed if they have any hope of defeating Savitar, let alone saving Iris from her grisly fate. We'll just have to wait and see for how long they can keep it up.
As is increasingly becoming a trend this season, the weekly villain in 'Untouchable' is little more than the push that gets the wheels spinning, working as a framework for Team Flash to hang their various bits of drama on. And perhaps that's all right since it's those scenes of high emotion, even when feeling a little forced, that make The Flash such an enjoyable show. When The Flash returns in two weeks, it's off to Gorilla City to save Harry in a two-part story that will surely put a lot of this Savitar stuff on the back-burner, but hopefully, what they've learned and the bonds forged in this episode help Team Flash in their next adventure.
The Flash season 3 continues in two weeks on February 21st with 'Attack On Gorilla City' @8pm on The CW.